Michelle Martin

What’s the buzz?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Some jobs are just more immediately satisfying than others. That’s what I was thinking as I spent a sunny Saturday scraping old paint off the garage trim, getting ready to put a new coat of paint on.

Painting, like some kinds of house cleaning, falls high on the immediate gratification scale. When you start, the surface to be painted is generally looking worn and dingy. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be painting it. When you’re done, it’s clean and maybe even shiny. Maybe even a new, brighter color.

On a pleasant day, with the radio on and the bees buzzing happily in the flowerbeds, what’s not to like?

That was the direction my thoughts were going when I climbed the ladder to start on the trim under the peak of the roof, when I was distracted by more insects buzzing.

I saw one land near me, with the shiny body and clear stripes of the yellow jacket. This was no tawny honeybee, looking for a flower to pollinate, no fat and furry bumblebee. Wasps look hard and sleek and dangerous.

I watched for a moment as the wasp crawled into a small gap in the wood. And another moment as another yellow jacket landed and crawled in the gap, and one crawled out. One more moment to crane my neck a bit from where I was standing on the ladder for a better view into the crack in the wood. I saw several wasps — 10? A dozen? — and a glimpse of the hexagonal cells of their nest.

It might not have been real, but the buzzing that I heard seemed louder. I climbed down off the ladder and retreated to the shade of the picnic table umbrella to consider what to do.

Taking care of the nest on our own with a pesticide spray seemed the simplest solution, and it would likely work, but the possible downside seemed too high. We couldn’t tell how far back in the eaves the nest went; at this time of year, it could hold several hundred wasps, and the spray from a can would have limited reach from the gap in the in the wood. And whoever sprayed it would have to be on a ladder, a vulnerable position should the insects swarm.

So we called an exterminator and resigned ourselves to the idea that the garage would not be finished that day. Prudence, after all, is a virtue.

We did scrape and paint the rest of the trim, leaving only the area around the nest to finish, and we’ve been watching the entrance with interest, seeing how active it is in the daylight hours.

I, at least, am wondering how I never noticed it before. After all, there’s really no other reason for the wasps to be flying around up there. But I suppose we often don’t see what’s going on around us, not unless it jumps up and down and waves its arms and calls our name.

In this case, the satisfaction of a job well-done will have to wait a bit.


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